For the first time since 1990, a player reaches the semi-finals of a tournament without playing a single match, bravo Andrey! Exempted from the first round because of his status as the number 3 seed, the Russian took advantage of Richard Gasquet's withdrawal, obviously still bothered by his foot injury. But Rublev's "luck" didn't stop there, as Marton Fucsovics, who has been in great shape this early in the season, also threw in the towel after his victory over Lloyd Harris. The only negative point is that the Russian may lack a bit of rhythm, even if he played doubles with Aslan Karatsev this week. However, he will be able to rely on his great week in Rotterdam, which saw him win another title, his fourth in a row in the ATP 500 after Hamburg, St. Petersburg and Vienna at the end of last season. Since the resumption of the season in August, Rublev has shown an impressive level of play, where his opponent was, until now, in an opposite dynamic. Even though he has had some good results (victory over Medvedev at the 2020 US Open and finalist in Montpellier two weeks ago), Roberto Bautista Agut has had a bit of trouble getting back to the level that allowed him to be world No. 9 in January 2020. A tough winner over Opelka in the first round (4-6, 6-3, 6-4), he then beat Alexander Bublik with more control (6-4, 6-3). But his real reference match came in the quarter-finals against Dominic Thiem. Despite losing the second set, the Spaniard was very solid and managed to dominate the proceedings, pushing the Austrian to the limit in long rallies of which he has the secret (7-6, 2-6, 6-4). Of course, he will have to recover from these 2 hours and 25 minutes of battle, but at least he will be in the rhythm. That doesn't mean Rublev will be the favorite in this match, but the Russian will have to play at his best to beat Bautista Agut, who is never easy to beat. The two men are 2-2 in head-to-head meetings, but the last two encounters have gone in Rublev's favor in 2019 (indoor hard) and 2020 (clay).
Rodolphe Gilbert's eye:This is a very, very strange matchup because Rublev hasn't played a single match this week. Obviously Rublev is in good shape, he just won Rotterdam, but the transition from Rotterdam to Dubai is not easy to manage because of the time difference and the change of surface. Given the turn of events in recent weeks and months, he is a favorite, but it is a special situation because he is not in the rhythm of the tournament. On the other side of the draw, Bautista Agut is still a "reference" player, and he just beat Thiem. It's a victory that will do him a lot of good because since the confinement period he's had a little trouble getting back to his level. I think that the Spaniard has a good chance to play, considering the strange week Rublev has had. We'll have to see how he recovers after his match against Thiem, which is always a duel that draws on his reserves. But considering the context and the odds, I would put a small coin on Bautista Agut.
Nikoloz Basilashvili vs Taylor Fritz
Roger Federer was expected in the last four, but Nikoloz Basilashvili will deprive the Swiss' fans of this little pleasure! While he had not reached the semifinals of an ATP tournament since July 2019 in Hamburg (a tournament he had won), the Georgian has achieved a great week although he remained on four consecutive eliminations from his entry in Great Ocean, the Australian Open as well as Montpellier and Rotterdam. After defeating John Millman (2-6, 6-4, 6-2) and Malek Jaziri (6-2, 6-2), Basilashvili created a sensation by eliminating Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. After winning the first set, the Swiss player collapsed physically, making big mistakes due to poor footwork and a lack of energy. Despite this, the Georgian had to face a match point at 5-4 in the last set, which he saved before breaking behind (3-6, 6-1, 7-5). In addition to the Swiss' physical failure, Basilashvili's performance was also noteworthy, as he relied on a good first serve (73% first serve and 12 aces) to play an offensive game that often put Federer off the ball. To reach the final, he will have to get past Taylor Fritz, who is having a great start to the year. Very comfortable on hard court (64% win rate, his best ratio), the American is coming off a very encouraging Australian Open (he hasn't played since) with wins over Ramos-Vinolas and Reilly Opelka, but especially an excellent match against Novak Djokovic, whom he almost played a bad game against (defeat in five sets). After a well-controlled first round against Lorenzo Sonego (7-6, 6-4), Fritz came close to elimination against David Goffin, saving three match points before winning the last tie-break 11 points to 9 (6-1, 5-7, 7-6) after 2h36 of battle. In his quarter-final match against Shapovalov, he was once again badly beaten, conceding the first set without scoring a single point on the Canadian's serve. But that didn't stop him from converting the few break point opportunities he had (3/5) to turn the match around once again (5-7, 6-3, 7-5). This is the second time the two men will face each other, the first of which went in Fritz's favor in three sets at the 2017 Chengdu tournament. The American has performed much better since the beginning of the year, so he will be the logical favorite to reach the final, but he will have to watch out for Basilashvili, who is gradually gaining confidence.
Rodolphe Gilbert's eye :From what I've seen, I'd give a slight advantage to Fritz, who seems to be more solid and also more consistent overall for several months. Except for the Antalya tournament where he beat two players ranked above 250th in the world, Basilashvili hasn't won twice in a long time. However, when he is confident and "on fire", he is a player who can play really well, and he has already won ATP 500s. He has a very good ball striking, just like the match point against Federer. But I think Fritz is a little bit better with his serve and forehand. But considering the odds, it's not very interesting to play him while a Basilashvili at 3.20 is tempting. Those who remember his match against Nadal at the 2018 US Open know that he can come out with some great matches. Against Federer, I thought he was really solid, stayed in his match, didn't say a word. To sum up: advantage to the American, but the odds spread seems a bit too high to me so the value is on the Georgian.
Editor's Opinion⭐️⭐️⭐️--- ⭐️⭐️ Bautista 1 set / Basilashvili 1 set ⭐️ Victory Bautista / Victory Basilashvili
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